O.J. Howard fine-tuned his craft during his four years in Alabama and is now projected to be a surefire early first round pick in the 2017 NFL Draft.
O.J. Howard could have chosen to forgo his last year of eligibility after a breakout junior year and noteworthy playmaking resume, but his decision to complete his Crimson Tide career may be what lands him the first tight end pick in the 2017 NFL draft.
"The best decision I made in my life so far. I had the opportunity to graduate college, and I did that," Howard said at the NFL Combine. "As a football player, I got better, I improved in blocking, I understand the game more, and played for a great coach. You can't beat that. Just knowing that as a player I could improve in certain areas such as the run game and route-running. Just understanding the game as a whole that had a big part to play in it, and ultimately why I came back to school."
Before selecting to attend school in-state at Alabama, Howard was considered the best tight end of his high school class. Once in the college ranks, he started five times as a true freshman and made his name as a big-play receiver averaging 19.2 yards per catch.
Howard continued to be a threat at tight end and had a standout season as a junior in 2015, recording 38 passes for 602 yards and two touchdowns.
He earned Offensive MVP honors in the 2016 National Championship Game after registering five catches for 208 yards and two touchdowns. Howard progressed and remained an impact player for the remainder of his time with the Tide. In his four seasons with Alabama, Howard caught 114 passes for 1,726 yards and seven touchdowns and was also a distinguished player in the 2017 Senior Bowl.
Now an NFL draft prospect, Howard is not only projected to be a first round pick, but also perhaps the first tight end.
"That's something you work for," Howard said. "Everyone wants to go in the top two rounds. To be a guy considered in the number one round, that's truly an honor. Just the way I play. I think I have a lot of athletic ability for the next level that can get used a lot. I can go out wide, I can make plays in the passing game, I can stay in and block . . . it's kind of rare to see a guy that's a three down tight end nowadays. I think that's what I bring to the table."
The 6-foot-6, 251-pound tight end is notorious for his blend of size, speed and especially his versatility for his position.
"Being very versatile, I can go out wide, I can go in the slot, you can put a tight end in so many places on the field, it's hard to key (on him) and shut him down," Howard said. "It's a huge asset that I have."
On the field, Howard has shown he is an impact player through his explosiveness, ability to block and playmaking ability. However, he states he has additional valuable skill that sets him apart from other tight ends.
"I would just say my ability to be a three-down tight end," Howard said. "Being able to stay in the game and run-block, and also being able to use my athletic ability in the passing game to separate from defenders. A guy that can come in and defenses cannot key on you just because you come in on third down and you're going to go out for a pass. I want to be a guy that stays on the field all the time. I can do it all. Play goal line packages, all of the above. Check all the boxes. All of it."
Howard believes he can have an immediate impact on any team that drafts him, just as he did during his four years at Alabama.
"I feel I'm intelligent enough to come in and learn the playbook right away," Howard said. "I'm a guy that's going to work hard, and that's what it takes. Come in, learn the playbook, and work hard. That's what I have. I want to come in and be a hard worker, show the team I'm capable of making plays, come in and be a team player, and be a game-changer for any team that drafts me."